Psychotherapy and Politics International

Psychotherapy and Politics International 12(3), 208–219 (2014)
Published online 5 December 2014 in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/ppi.1336

The Freudo-Marxist Tradition and the
Critique of Psychotherapeutic Ideology
DAVID PAVÓN-CUÉLLAR, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Morelia,
Michoacán, Mexico

ABSTRACT The ideology of psychotherapy is questioned through critical concepts taken
from the Freudo-Marxist tradition. The paper first analyses in detail six determinant
ideological processes detected in psychotherapy that three pioneers of Freudo-Marxism
criticised in the 1920s: dualistic scission and metaphysical immobilisation (Luria); idealist
generalisation and mechanistic determination (Bernfeld); and repressive adaptation and
historical decontextualisation (Reich). Following this, it briefly reviews seven paired
analogous processes that were denounced by continuators of the Freudo-Marxist tradition:
valorative moralisation and the psychologisation of the social (Fenichel); instinctual–
rational deprivation and the mechanisation of the subject (Adorno); alienating performance
and surplus repression (Marcuse); manipulation and dehumanising alienation (Fromm);
abstraction and mythologising (Bleger); authoritarianism and suggestion (Caruso); and
depoliticisation and rationalisation (Langer). The argument will show how Freudo-Marxist
questionings of these operations – many now forgotten – are still current and can be
inspiring and enriching for a modern critique of psychotherapy. Copyright © 2014 John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key words: ideology; psychotherapy; marxism; psychoanalysis; freudo-marxism

The literal meaning of psychotherapy, the treatment [therapeia] of psychism [psyche], is so
broad and so unrestrictive that it has been given the most diverse interpretations. Interpreted
and reinterpreted time and again, the etymological nucleus of the term has constituted a
juncture where multiple ideas obeying distinct theoretical–epistemological orientations, as
well as determinations of a political, economic, social, cultural and historical nature, have
come to meet and intertwine. It is this interweaving of such ideas that justifies our conception
of psychotherapy as an ideological practice, as ideology in action, performed in relation to the
other, the patient or client.

*Correspondence to: David Pavón-Cuéllar, Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de
Hidalgo (UMSNH), Francisco Villa 450, Colonia Doctor Miguel Silva, C.P. 58110, Morelia, Michoacán, México.

Psychotherapy and Politics International. 12(3), 208–219 (2014)
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. DOI: 10.1002/ppi

Hence. ALEXANDER LURIA: DUALISTIC SCISSION AND METAPHYSICAL IMMOBILISATION (1925) The origins of Freudo-Marxism are imbricated with the implantation of psychoanalysis in Russia. and not just the expression or effect of ideology (Strunk. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. understood here in a broad sense – and without entering into the debates regarding the term – as the simple confluence and alliance of the critical perspectives bequeathed by Freud and Marx. 2006. while the first translation of Freud’s work into Russian was in progress. Matot. Finally. The Freudo-Marxist Tradition 209 The words and gestures of the psychotherapist not only represent and manifest psychotherapeutic ideology. In 1908. through acts and their planning. which. 12(3). This questioning is outlined in this article. The following years would see not only the founding of the Moscow Psychoanalytic Society (1911) and Freud’s treatment of the “Wolf Man” (1910–1914). Parker. the Bolshevik revolutionary Adolf Iofe was undergoing analysis with Alfred Adler while studying psychoanalysis in Vienna. Psychotherapy thus constitutes a perfect object for testing the edge and acuteness of a Freudo-Marxism. realise it and dramatise it. By that time. in addition to being an ideological practice that is susceptible to a Marxist critique. from 1921 to 1925. but also present and effectuate it. barely a year after Sabina Spielrein discovered psychoanalytic treatment in Switzerland. 2007. Psychotherapy is thus ideology. 2009). became interested in combining Freud with Marx. For each pair of processes. Ltd. In 1906. We also discuss how the critique of these processes is inserted in their sociopolitical context and the history of the Freudo-Marxist tradition. then those who criticise it can learn a great deal from the critique of ideology that has been cultivated. as ideological practice (House. The Freudian critique of psychology and the Marxist critique of ideology can complement. 2000). involves a psychology that can be criticised from the perspective of Freudian psychoanalysis. DOI: 10. another young Russian who was also in that country. enrich and strengthen each other through a Freudo-Marxist questioning of psychotherapeutic ideology. often doing that which is neither thought nor expressed except while being done. 1985). by means of technique and the application of technique for the treatment of the psyche (Braunstein. Iofe’s friend Leon Trotsky was also interested in psychoanalysis and began to ponder it in light of Marxism. Tatiana Rosenthal. we examine how they are represented by the Freudo- Marxist author who noticed them. before seeking to infer the ideological content underlying the work of psychotherapists.1002/ppi . Guilfoyle. and in this field perhaps nothing is better than Freudo-Marxism for dealing critically with psychotherapeutic ideology. based on critical concepts proffered by Freudo-Marxism. 1999. how they are integrated into their theory. and how they can intervene in current psychotherapeutic ideological practice. If psychotherapy is ideology. especially in the field of Marxism. directed the Children’s House Psychotherapy and Politics International. and so question psychotherapy as ideology. We begin by analysing three pairs of fundamental ideological processes that we see operating in psychotherapy and that were criticised by Luria. Bernfeld and Reich in the 1920s. why they are criticised. but also the triumph of the October Revolution (1917) and the approach to psychoanalysis of the revolutionary leader Otto Schmidt and his wife Vera who. we see how some followers of Freudo-Marxism have continued the critique of the ideological processes detectable in current psychotherapeutic practice. we must first describe the ideological form that is immanent in their work.

“Psychoanalysis as a System of Monist Psychology” (Luria. 12(3). which is thus distinguished not only from a physiological intervention of a neurological or psychiatric nature that involves medication or surgery. as a static metaphysical essence suspended in a vacuum. after founding the Kazan Psychoanalytic Society and sustaining direct correspondence with Freud. and other “aspects” of the “one world” conceived as a “single system of material processes” (Luria. artificially de-attached from all that upon which it is founded. but also because they associated it with Trotskyism. p. after the death of Lenin in 1924. which holds that all things must be understood as being in continuous tension. 1977. contradiction. or economic and ideological aspects. The other perspective shared by Marxism and Freudianism is the dialectic–dynamic. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. and susceptible of receiving psychological treatment. In the double perspective of Luria’s Freudo-Marxism. p. of the only materiality recognized in a monist–materialist focus which strives “to integrate the organism into a system of social influences” (Luria. as well as in such Freudian ideas as the “drive”. This is what enabled Luria to overcome two ideological vices that never cease to operate in psychotherapy and that we can criticise from the perspective of Luria’s Freudo-Marxism. not only because they deemed it bourgeois and idealist.1002/ppi . prepared. The apogee of Russian Freudo-Marxism coincided precisely with the onset of its dismantling by the Stalinist intelligentsia which. breaks. 28). discontinuities” (ibid. but also from any concrete action in the socioeconomic material sphere. evolution. oscillation. contrary to the dialectic–dynamic. a psychotherapy in the strict sense of the term. that constitutes. to a singular materiality that blurs the frontier between ideas and things. is a metaphysical immobilisation that leads us to treat the psychic by artificially removing it from worldly agitation. Ltd. Both perspectives can be appreciated in the Marxist conception of socioeconomic conflicts transmuted into ideological contradictions and psychological tearing. 36). The second vice. transforms Psychotherapy and Politics International. extracting it from drives or conversive processes. by decontextualising it and fixing it in a static essence. agitation and transformation. a public institution that mixed a school with a daycare centre and an orphanage. Luria located the coincidence between Marxism and psychoanalysis in the fact that they share two inseparable epistemological perspectives. It was in this hostile context that the soon-to- be celebrated neuropsychologist Alexander Luria (1902–1977). In this 1925 text. which leads us to believe in something that is psychic–immaterial. scission. the great founding text of Freudo-Marxism. p. which assimilates everything. but also from the socioeconomic to the psychic–ideological and vice versa. 1977). in a movement that does not exclude “leaps. DOI: 10. p. independent of the physical–material. The first is the materialist–monist perspective. the dialectic–dynamic vision makes it possible to explain the constant change between psychic and somatic states. abstracting it from the movement that leads us from the somatic to the psychic and from the psychic to the somatic. including mental life. an “Introduction” to Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle and published the article that interests us here. and whose functioning was inspired simultaneously by Marxism and psychoanalysis. 1977. the two vices detected by Luria lead psychotherapists to treat the psychic sphere in the abstract. rushed to combat psychoanalysis. with Vygotsky. 47). The first of these – the opposite of materialist monism – is dualistic scission. the psychic and the somatic.210 Pavón-Cuéllar (Detski Dom). 27). As interpreted here. the presence of the somatic in the psychic and the “conversion of energy from mental forms into purely somatic forms” (ibid.

which are necessarily particular. That would have to wait until 1926. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. though his perspective was not truly Freudo-Marxist (Federn. Freud himself was rather sceptical of this conclusion. It was precisely while analysing the Russian Bolshevik Adolf Iofe. They would not see that subjects are never so subjected to material reality as when they believe they can ignore it. Paul Federn. and does not describe a unilineal evolutionary trajectory. in summary. SIEGFRIED BERNFELD: IDEALIST GENERALISATION AND MECHANISTIC DETERMINATION (1926) The earliest Freudo-Marxism. Ten years later. without attempting to step aside. but one of those present. This is the first lesson that a psychotherapist can take from Freudo-Marxism. or extricate oneself from it. DOI: 10. 17). Bernfeld’s lecture vindicated a Freudo-Marxism that adopted the materialist focus and the historical method attributed to both Marx and Freud. propels us beyond false conscious ideological justifications that present themselves as general. in 1919. and those of Freud that “prove the participation of sadistic instinctive impulses in the patriotic fervour of a voluntary combatant” (ibid. Ltd. introduced the first sufficiently well-elaborated Freudo-Marxist proposal in his lecture entitled Socialism and Psychoanalysis (Bernfeld. given at the Psychological Wednesday Society in the presence of Freud and some of his other early disciples. that the Austrian psychoanalyst Alfred Adler gave the conference that can be considered the founding moment of Austro-German Freudo-Marxism. in the singular history of each individual or collective subject. to discover the true unconscious material causes. and consists in struggling against. and concluded that “the theory of class struggle was in harmony with the results of our doctrine of drives” (p. Adler (1909/1983) expressed the view that Marx had discovered the “primacy of drives” in the economic base of society. 17–19). monist and dynamic. the materialist focus entails distrusting conscious motives and seeing them as “pretexts. the material conditions of life. In that lecture. The very spiritualist and contemplative idealism of this practice would make psychotherapists believe that it suffices to obviate worldly and corporal materiality in order to be liberated from it. the nutritional and the sexual. did not achieve its full development in the Soviet Union. but also the external physical. which preceded the Second World War. has no mechanical character. The Freudo-Marxist Tradition 211 and manifests it: the corporal or somatic. adduced motives that supplant unconscious ones” (ibid. Federn presented an interesting psychology of revolution. where it emerged quite early on.. material reality.. 1926/1972). the socioeconomic. and that the only means of freeing oneself from it is materialist and dialectic. The entire world and the body itself would thus be obviated in a totally idealist psychotherapeutic practice. but in the German-speaking cultural world. 174). Siegfried Bernfeld (1892–1953). and in. 172). Thus it follows Marx’s examples that “explain belligerent patriotism as a superstructure that masks imperialistic class interests”. As represented by Bernfeld. almost at the same time as in Russia. since it is not determined mechanically by either the Psychotherapy and Politics International. 2000). history constitutes a complex sequence of over-determined events that obeys no general laws. p. reaffirmed it by insisting that Freud and Marx sought to “suppress repression and lead things to consciousness” (p. While the historical method demands rejecting “general concepts” and “setting out from a concrete case” to elucidate its history.1002/ppi . in March 1909. when the Freudian psychoanalyst and militant Marxist and Zionist. 12(3). pp. etc. Bernfeld’s historical materialism.

these pretensions can be justified and psychotherapists can achieve success in their treatments. Here we have another lesson that psychotherapists can take from Freudo-Marxism. and to begin cultivating Freudo-Marxism by undertaking an original reflection that would soon yield its first fruits. if psychotherapy is efficacious and successful. one mechanised and generalised. Another ideological process is the mechanistic determination that has us imagine that we can treat psychism through simple relations of cause–effect. By recognising the historical complexity and unconscious materiality of each unique existence. Bernfeld set himself in opposition to two fundamental ideological processes that we may discover in current psychotherapy. not from the good intentions of psychotherapists with their definitive universal remedies for supposedly objective and well-defined problems. Reich’s work opens multiple fronts. including two that especially interest us here owing to their implications for the critique of Psychotherapy and Politics International.. That experience was a determining factor in Reich’s decision to join the Austrian Communist Party. that is. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. 17–18). all that which distinguishes the material and historical existence of the person who seeks out the psychotherapist. DOI: 10. remedy–cure. Bernfeld also comes to recognise the simplifications and idealisations that we perceive in the foundations of psychotherapy’s pretensions to efficacy. that Reich wrote the work that concerns us here – Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis (Reich. 21) that cannot be reduced to the simple mechanical succession of determinant steps and determined advances in treatment. 12(3). With this notion of a particular and indeterminate history and the correlated conception of the materiality of unconscious causes to which we have already referred. means–goals. are discovered deductively in all subjects. objective. technique–result. All of this can be preserved only when treated through a historical materialist strategy that sets out. during a stay in the Soviet Union. undeducible” (ibid. in which we witness the degradation and dissolution of all that which is complex and irreducibly particular. it is only so with respect to a simplified and idealised psychism. “conflicts” and “solutions” that interweave in a “dialectical progression” (ibid. thorough and ambitious of the early works in Freudo-Marxism. pp. Of course. but from the unconscious weavings of the existence of subjects themselves with their misguided interests and unconscious desires. WILHELM REICH: REPRESSIVE ADAPTATION AND HISTORICAL DECONTEXTUALISATION (1929) A year after Bernfeld gave his lecture in Berlin. instead of recognising the complex over-determination of a historical sequence of “contradictions”.212 Pavón-Cuéllar Marxian degree of development of the productive forces or the Freudian phases of psychosexual development. the then physician and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) enlisted as a volunteer to help social-democratic workers victimised during the July Uprising in Vienna. however. p. It was in 1929. Ltd. Through its critical reflections on psychoanalysis. One is the idealist generalisation that leads us to reduce subjects to individual cases of ideal generalities and respond to their conscious intentions of curation through general recipes for “spiritual psychological phenomena” that are also general. to devote himself to reading Marx and Engels.1002/ppi . 1929/1989) – perhaps the most radical.. dexterity–success and treatment–relief. and their individual and provisional conflicts and solutions. are “governed by their own laws” and appear as “psychic contents” that pretend to be “absolute.

and so liberate us. psychotherapy is obliged to accept the context. p. inseparable from its historical contextualisation. Just as Marxism would be deprived of its revolutionary potential if it did not help workers become conscious of exploitation in society.1002/ppi . in which a certain form of sexual repression makes possible a certain form of social domination. 73). 69–78). and as a “social phenomenon” that is just as “closely linked to” as it is “incompatible with the bourgeois mode of existence” (ibid. a consciousness in inconformity with itself. By ignoring or naturalising the context. This brings us to the “second front” of Reich’s that interests us here. The conscientisation sought by Reichian psychoanalysis is. How is one to contribute deliberately to any kind of liberation if one ignores that historical context from which one is seeking liberation? How can one subvert a repression that is set aside? How can one raise consciousness of something of which one is not conscious? It is only by accident that a psychotherapy which is unaware of its historical context can lead us to consciousness. The first defends the need for the historical contextualisation of psychoanalysis conceived at one and the same time as bourgeois and anti-bourgeois. as the “expression” and “subversion” of “bourgeois society”. just as Marxism would represent “awareness” of “the exploitation of the masses by minorities” (ibid. leads to the creation of docile and passive subjects who allow themselves be dominated more easily. The emancipatory proposal of psychoanalysis as conceived by Reich only makes sense in the context of capitalism and bourgeois society. and that from which we free ourselves and of which we acquire consciousness. Ltd. Psychotherapy and Politics International. that of liberating subversion. Psychoanalytical practice would thus share this double character because it reflects an internal historical contradiction of bourgeois society. Therefore. according to Reich. therefore. psychoanalysis would express the “awareness of sexual repression on the part of the society”. Like subversion and liberation. therefore. a decontextualised psychotherapy will not be able to resolve them truly by resolving their causes in the historical context. but will only be able to relieve their psychic effects. and. resign itself to it. that we can free ourselves from domination by subverting repression through the consciousness we acquire in the analytical process. Unable to question it. Hence we can position ourselves in Reich’s perspective by criticising the historical decontextualisation of a psychotherapy that tends not to create awareness of the historical context. subvert that which is repressive in the context. psychotherapy leaves it just as it was found. Our consciousness is the consciousness of a certain historical context. pp. a dissonant form of self- awareness of this society. in which the consciousness of sexual repression makes it possible to subvert this repression and so free oneself from a “class domination” founded upon the repressive device that. for it is in this historical context. The final proposal of Reichian psychoanalysis would be precisely that of liberating the dominated classes by helping their members to subvert their sexual repression by gaining consciousness of it. This is all that psychotherapeutic practice could attain by treating the psyche and thus confirming itself as the psychotherapy that it is.. To be more precise.. much less transform it. and succumb before its fate. when confronting problems in the psyche. cannot produce the conscientisation that makes subversion and liberation possible. DOI: 10. The Freudo-Marxist Tradition 213 psychotherapy. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. by failing to perceive its historical character. so too psychoanalysis would lose its liberating capacity if it did not lead to awareness of the repression of sexuality. 12(3). conscientisation is inseparable from the historical context in which we find that which we subvert.

while revolutionary action seeks to subvert by transforming – and that which is subverted by revolution must be precisely the repressive adaptation that can be achieved through psychotherapy. This will allow psychotherapy to achieve the liberation of the subject instead of repressing it by adapting it to an historical context that becomes more implacable the more it is unknown or naturalised. why should we repress subjects by treating their psyche? Would it not be better to use psychotherapy to strengthen the subject in order to transform the context? In this way we would achieve a Reichian psychoanalysis that breaks with the mutual exclusion between psychotherapeutic practice and revolutionary action. by the 1930s. Once again. together with Rosenthal. for instance. p. 172). and in each case.214 Pavón-Cuéllar Why must psychotherapy treat the psyche instead of its context? Why must it adapt the psyche to the historical context instead of trying to adapt this context to the psyche? Why must the subject be repressed to adapt it to the context instead of subverting the context to liberate the subject? We can respond to these questions logically by referring to how difficult it is to subvert the context and how. 1973). 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. were the pioneers of a Freudo-Marxist tradition that spread and developed in the ensuing decades. Outside the Reichian Freudo-Marxist project. 79). as with those of the pioneers. Here we have the third lesson of Freudo-Marxism for psychotherapists. This double denouncement signals two ideological vices that are frequent in Psychotherapy and Politics International. and this consciousness cannot be achieved through a decontextualised psychotherapy. OTTO FENICHEL. and others not mentioned. 1972. While we do not pretend to offer an exhaustive analysis. 12(3). it is relatively easy to repress the subject. namely that of repressive adaptation. in this part. understood as an ideological psychotherapeutic process that obtains our “complete subjection to social exigencies” instead of strengthening our “capacity to resist in the face of reality” (Reich.1002/ppi . Here. since psychotherapeutic practice tends to repress in order to adapt. in order to become capable of resisting a given historical context. THEODOR ADORNO. we refer briefly to some of these authors. 1989. This brings us to the second critique of psychotherapy inspired in Reich. and thus strengthen subjects’ capacity for resistance and even subversion of that which is repressive in the context. HERBERT MARCUSE AND ERICH FROMM (1934–1955) Luria. This response is convincing when we think of the repression of one single subject – but is repressing millions of subjects really easier than subverting a repressive historical context? Even if we were to accept this (which sounds so dubious). DOI: 10. it is normal to see revolution and psychotherapy as mutually exclusive. p. perhaps not even a truly representative sample. then such practice must be historically contextualised. Schmidt. we must begin by becoming conscious of it. had overrun the borders of Russia and central Europe. instead. Ltd. strive to extract a pair of critical resources that each one has contributed. In 1934 the psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel (1897–1946) denounced those deviations from psychoanalysis that set out to judge behaviour on the basis of ideal moral values and sought to deal with “social facts inaccessible to psychology using psychological methods” (Fenichel. Bernfeld and Reich. we see how Freudo-Marxist authors multiplied and contributed valuable critical resources to the questioning of psychotherapy. and soon. Adler. the function of the authoritarian family in fascism (Reich. If psychotherapeutic practice is to contribute to conscientisation. situated and positioned with respect to the different vectors and conflicts of social reality.

pp.. pp. the psychologisation of the social leads psychotherapists to reduce society to the psyche. this is not only an effect of their illness. 12(3). but can also be observed in the most diverse forms of psychotherapeutic practice in which therapists explain the instincts and reasons of the subject exteriorly from the perspective of their theory. the surplus repression of the subject. psychotherapeutic practice will not be at the service of the reality principle. thus converting them into a simple mechanism deprived of their own movement. by 1949. thus excluding subjects from what they think and feel. therefore. as would happen to the subject under the principle of actuation described by Marcuse. which destroys that which it liberates. 57). is that “those who come to be indisposed against pleasure and Heaven”. was concerned by the way in which psychoanalysis leads us to distrust. By promoting the alienation of the subject in this performance. p.. valorative moralisation converts psychotherapy into an obscene form of ideologisation. our instincts. in Adorno’s words. and. that is. 48). Theodor Adorno (1903–1969). p. The Freudo-Marxist Tradition 215 psychotherapy. also recognised the importance of collective action and the instincts that motivate it. but also of its curing. 58–59) This destruction of that which is liberated is clearly not exclusive to the psychoanalytic cure. one that will have no valid reasons or effective drive to rise up when the time comes to act in an alienated way in the system. psychotherapy incurs in the same ideological processes of instinctual–rational deprivation and the consequent mechanisation of the subject. indoctrination. where they then strive to use treatment to resolve problems that are actually social in nature. 1983. This latter vice impedes social problems from being treated through such efficacious means as collective action. Thus psychotherapy will contribute to alienate the subject and to a second ideological–social process described by Marcuse. The problem. seen as the traps or trickery of a species that assure its survival. which expresses a “prevailing historical form of the reality principle” (Marcuse. One is alienating performance.. 58–59) and “alienates” the subject in an “economic performance” determined by a certain classist “social stratification” (ibid. 2003. 55). are those who will best fulfil their roles as objects: those who are empty and mechanized [and] so often seen in those perfectly analyzed. DOI: 10. manipulation. In 1953. namely. Here. but will serve the performance principle which. and our reasons. in turn. Psychotherapy and Politics International. 48) that is in “irreconcilable conflict” with the pleasure principle (ibid.1002/ppi . passive and manipulable. pastoral guide and social control. one of the principal philosophers of the Frankfurt School. p. from that which holds them back and that which pushes them forward. conceived as superstructural rationalisations of the deceitful base of our instincts. surplus repression presents the danger of “submerging it” in a “destructive dialectic” (ibid. Ltd. which consists in subjecting it to “restrictions provoked by social domination” that are not “necessary for perpetuating the human race in civilization” (ibid. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. p. offered a profound critical reflection on two ideological–social processes that are often facilitated by psychotherapy. (Adorno. analysable through psychology and treatable by psychotherapy. second. simultaneously. as if all things social were psychic and. against the instinctual and the rational. While basic repression makes it possible to preserve civilised humanity. First. What is obtained when all is said and done is a being that is insensible and unconscious. Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979). will be subordinated to the interests and ideology of the dominant class. another member of the Frankfurt School..

mechanisation. for example. DOI: 10. 144). aggressiveness. 2011. which situates an abstract theoretical “inference” in place of the “concrete subject” (Bleger. and thus contributing to their repression. JOSÉ BLEGER. 1988. it turns its attention to those mythologised abstractions that make up the theoretical reserve of psychology. that is. openly denounced psychotherapy from the perspective of normative humanism. Ltd. Adorno and Fenichel warn psychotherapists of the risks of manipulating and moralising the individuals. Rather. In reality. alienation and dehumanisation. Psychotherapy and Politics International. 144) by promoting a form of mental health identified with the “alienated social character of our time”. 12(3). ambition and tolerance of all things (ibid. 143). in 1955. IGOR CARUSO AND MARIE LANGER (1958–1971) If psychotherapeutic practice can contribute to alienating the subject. which offers a false concretisation to abstract inferences like those of the psyche itself with its “interior life” and its “forces” or “drives”. The first one is dehumanising alienation.216 Pavón-Cuéllar The destruction of humanity was a fear also expressed by Erich Fromm (1900–1980). Fromm. This is a fourth lesson that we can take from Freudo-Marxism. there is practically no psychotherapy that does not fall into the ideological processes of abstractionism. fraternity. depriving them of their own instincts and their own rationality. This alienation. p. in which psychotherapists operate as “spokespersons of the alienated personality” (Fromm. this is perhaps because it sets out from a psychological theory in which the concrete subject has already been abstracted and replaced by ideological myths. which is so useful for the capitalist system. personal manipulation.1002/ppi . the founder of humanist psychoanalysis and a dissident of the Frankfurt School. is achieved through the second ideological process in psychotherapy that Fromm denounced. These essential features of humanity would deteriorate under the effects of two ideological processes in which diverse psychotherapeutic practices often incur. then it ends up producing alienated beings whose fraternity has been alienated. as we have just pointed out by situating ourselves in the critical perspectives of Adorno. who.. like those revealed in 1958 by the Argentine Marxist psychoanalyst José Bleger (1923–1972) in his evaluation of psychoanalysis through a critical reflection that is applicable to virtually any kind of psychotherapeutic practice. behaviour for behaviourists. p. creativity. and characterised by attitudes such as adaptability. cognition for cognitivists.e. p. If psychotherapeutic practice produces beings that are competitive. through which “psychologists lubricate individuals” just as “mechanics lubricate motors” (ibid.. p. 78). Marcuse and Fromm.. Fromm went so far as to state that “the supreme achievement of manipulation is contemporary psychology”. which would do “for the entire personality” what Taylor “did for industrial work” (ibid. and mythologising. These dangers may only be prevented if we put strict limits to our psychotherapeutic interventions and renounce imposing our values or ideals on the individuals. By treating the psyche and representing it abstractedly and mythologically. 163). between the essential human trait of fraternity and the social attitude of ambition and aggressiveness promoted by psychotherapy under capitalism. p. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. i. These attitudes can only be developed by alienating a human being with whom they are incompatible. proposed absolute universal criteria to define the human being: individuality. Marcuse. in attempting to go beyond sociological relativism. psychotherapy fails to occupy itself with both concrete subjects and the dramatic concretisation of their lives. There is a clear incompatibility. which. etc. ambitious and aggressive.

either directly through authoritarianism or indirectly through suggestion. Ltd. 208–219 (2014) Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons. p. and which were denounced by other Freudo-Marxist authors. one that is well posited by Caruso. despite the best rational ruses to which so many psychoanalysts and psychotherapists turn in order to bolster an apolitical image of their power. Here. In 1962 the Russian Count Igor Caruso (1914–1981) placed emphasis on the question of power by defining that which. Here we encounter the two ideological processes that the Austrian–Argentine Marxist psychoanalyst Marie Langer (1910–1987) denounced in 1971 in psychoanalysis. DOI: 10. Therapeutic power takes on two forms which Caruso (1962/1980) criticised: authoritarianism. psychotherapeutic power is clearly political. “the psychoanalytical posture. when it ultimately cedes to counter-transference and its “alienating projections and identifications”. in Caruso. Clearly. through knowledge. and suggestion. for it dehumanizes him. in turn. 79). for example. Psychotherapy and Politics International. the power induced indirectly. the "omission" of “the political”. p. they can substitute themselves for the subject and usurp her/ his place. 12(3). must distinguish psychoanalysis from psychotherapy. is nothing more than the concealment of the political posture of psychotherapists and of the political character of the functions they perform in society. In his words. the power imposed directly from a position of knowledge. [and] converts him into a thing” (ibid. the vast majority of psychotherapies constitute means of exercising power that become more successful as their power increases. and always furtively by depolitisation and rationalisation. including Caruso’s suggestion. can only be founded upon a broad recognition of the sovereignty of the patient” (Caruso. pp. p. Caruso and Bleger show different ways in which seemingly neutral psychotherapeutic knowledge may exert its power on the individuals. the other is rationalisation. psychoanalysis also often incurs in these forms of exercising psychotherapeutic power. 79–81). from that same position. 1971/1989. Here we have the fifth lesson of the Freudo-Marxist tradition for psychotherapists. seems to constitute the effect of any exercise of psychotherapeutic power. Langer supported an openly revolutionary action in which it is no longer necessary to “renounce either Freudianism or Marxism” (ibid. The Freudo-Marxist Tradition 217 humanity for humanists.. which only serve an “alienation” that “resembles an assassination of man. of “the social act”. which. through “resistances and counter-resistances on the part of the patient and the analyst” (Langer. The abstracted subject thus becomes an object that can be dominated by whoever holds the key to her/his abstraction – which brings us to the question of psychotherapeutic power. As a counterpoint to these surreptitious forms of political functioning. As therapists know what is happening to the subject. Fenichel’s moralisation and Reich’s adaptation. 1980. This conservative and reactionary position is ideologically dissimulated through a process of theoretical rationalisation that constitutes the foundation of depolitisation. but that we can also and still notice in the vast majority of modern psychotherapies. This exercise of power can only be stopped by giving up our position of supposed neutral psychotherapeutic knowledge. either negatively through abstraction or positively through mythologisation. As conceived by Caruso and other Freudo-Marxist authors. knowledge and power. in contrast to certain authoritarian and suggestive psychotherapies. Langer. we find ourselves before the dehumanising alienation described by Fromm which. While psychoanalytic(al) practice must strive to abstain from exercising any power over subjects. Fromm’s manipulation. 72).. One is depolitisation. etc. once again. which allows “the analyst to conceal her/his anchoring in the past and attachment to the established order” (ibid. 73). What is important is that these abstractions constitute a knowledge over which the power of the psychotherapist can be exercised. in his Freudo-Marxist perspective. 76).1002/ppi .. p.

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